ESI Lecture von Timothy J Buschman

Neural Dynamics of Working Memory

Working memory is our ability to hold things ‘in mind’, acting as a flexible substrate on which thoughts can be placed and manipulated. As such, working memory is critical to cognition. However, despite its importance, working memory is surprisingly limited. Working memory can only hold a few items at once and memories are susceptible to interference. In this talk I will discuss the neural mechanisms that compensate for these limitations. First, I will show memory representations are highly dynamic. They evolve over time in a way that reduces interference between the memory representation and new sensory stimuli. Second, I will present work examining the neural mechanisms that control the contents of working memory. Similar to how attention compensates for crowding in visual perception, a ‘selection’ process can compensate for over-loading of working memory. Leveraging large-scale electrophysiological recordings in non-human primates, we are beginning to understand the neural mechanisms that guide selection and how selection impacts working memory representations. Together, our results begin to provide insight into the neural mechanisms that compensate for the limitations of working memory.